The Vaccines Your Dog Really Needs

Every year, you visit the vet and get a round of shots for your dog, along with an expensive bill. We all want to protect our pets, so we comply with whatever our vet or clinic recommends. But there is some debate over which vaccines are necessary and how often they should be given.

yellow dog getting shots
Yellow Dog is being a brave boy while he gets his rabies and bordetella shots.

Yellow Dog and Sundown were recently due for their shots, so we at YDB decided to get the low-down on vaccines. We consulted our vet expert, Dr. Brandy Vickers of Avenues Pet Hospital in San Francisco, to find out what’s best for each individual pet owner.

Q: What immunizations are necessary every year? Every three years?

A: There are a few viral diseases that every dog needs to be vaccinated against, called core vaccines: distemper, parvoviral enteritis, canine infectious hepatitis, and rabies. After getting puppy shots and the one-year booster, all these vaccinations are given every three years.

There are several other diseases that are vaccinated against only if certain risk factors are present: Lyme disease, leptospirosis and infectious trachebronchitis (commonly referred to as kennel cough). These are all bacterial diseases and vaccinations are given yearly.

Q: Why is there disagreement about how often certain shots are needed? For instance, distemper every year versus every three years?

A: There was a big debate about how often to give the core vaccines several years ago. However, since then laboratory trials have proven the vaccinations are effective for three years.

Q: Is it a good idea just to get the shots every year or are there side effects for over-immunizing pets?

A: If your pet is in the at-risk category for one of the bacterial diseases, it is best to get a yearly vaccine. Vaccines are only given for life-threatening, non self-limiting diseases (meaning diseases that will not resolve on their own).

If your pet has an allergic reaction or other severe reaction to a vaccine, then he may receive an injection to prevent a vaccine reaction prior to future vaccines, or he may not be able to receive the offending vaccine again. It is very important that all pets be current on the rabies vaccine and the frequency is mandated by law.

There is a blood titer test for distemper virus and parvovirus that may be performed in lieu of vaccination, but I recommend that they not be used until the pet has received the puppy series, the one-year booster and the first three-year vaccine. Even if your pet gets titers checked, it is still a good idea to vaccinate at a minimum of six-year intervals.

So here’s the bottom line:

Rabies – the initial puppy series, one-year booster, then every three years, which is mandated by law. There is some debate on this one for three years versus five years, but three years is required by law. Make sure you keep your proof of immunization.

water fountain in dog park
Community dog fountains are a good way to catch kennel cough, if you’re not vaccinated. If your dog is a frequent dog park visitor, get the bordetella shot yearly.

Bordetella (for kennel cough) – recommended every year if your dog is in contact with other dogs frequently, such as at dog parks, kennels or even the vet’s office. Kennels will typically require proof of currency of this vaccine.

Parvo (parvoviral enteritis) – initial puppy series, one-year booster, then every three years.

Distemper – initial puppy series, one-year booster, then every three years. This is usually part of a combination shot. Newborn puppies are especially susceptible to this viral disease with no known cure, so immunizing young pups is important.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis (Adenovirus 1) – the puppy series, one-year booster, then every three years. This is usually given as a vaccination for a respiratory illness called adenovirus 2; the CAV-2 shot protects against CAV-1 as well, but has less side effects than the CAV-1 shot.

Lyme Disease – only if your dog is at-risk. Consult your vet to find out if your dog needs this vaccine.

Leptospirosis (a bacterial infection) – only if your dog is at-risk. The bacteria is most common in tropical, subtropical and wet environments, and mainly in the fall season, when dogs come in contact with contaminated water. This is an important one if your dog is at-risk because it can be transmitted to humans, especially children.

You can reduce the costs of vaccinations by taking your pup to a clinic like VIP Pet Care.

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